Issue 21, Past Issues
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The Category Is Pathological: The Object Must Be Found, The Object Must Be Lacking

Diego Costa

“Sometimes, however, one’s imagination acts not only against one’s own body, but against someone else’s. And just as a body passes on its sickness to its neighbor, as is seen in the plague, the pox, and the soreness of the eyes, which are transmitted from one body to the other—likewise the imagination, when vehemently stirred, launches darts that can injure an external object. The ancients maintained that certain women of Scythia, when animated and enraged against anyone, would kill him with a mere glance. Tortoises and ostriches hatch their eggs just by looking at them, a sign that their sight has some ejaculative virtue.”

Michel de Montaigne, “Of The Power of The Imagination”

“Those who are able to satisfy their desire aren’t worried about living a long time.”

Lucien Israël, La Jouissance de L’Hystérique

“For it is not enough to decide the question on the basis of its effect: Death. We need to know which death, the one that life brings or the one that brings life.”

Jacques Lacan, “The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire”

Brasilia, Brazil

Fig. 1. Brasília, Brazil [map]. 1982. Edited by Felipe Micaroni Lalli and Diego Costa. <>

Public Loopholes, Parallel Privacies

The park is located in the middle of the man-made city. If you consider that Brasília is purposefully shaped like an airplane, with several slum-like suburbs called “satellite cities” surrounding it, the park, whose official name is “Sara Kubitschek” (although everyone refers to it as Parque da Cidade, or City Park), lies just below its southern wing and stretches itself alongside it. The park is an unusually large green space that serves the leisurely purposes of non-productive play and the pragmatic function of traffic shortcut for the city with the greatest per capita income in Brazil. It is visited by more than 180,000 people per week, though most of its infrastructure is in a state of complete decay. During the day it serves the jogging, biking and roller-blading necessities of the city’s middle and upper classes, as well as their children and dogs, who take advantage of playgrounds, rides, and water fountains. On weekends, families from the satellite cities also make their way to the park’s grounds, which is free to enter, although not easily accessible by public transportation.

At night, however, the park is to be avoided at all costs, unless one is using the roads that cut across to save time and avoid traffic lights. Once night falls, according to myth, the park is extremely unsafe—a breeding ground for beatings, murders, rapes, kidnappings, and homosexuals.1 In truth, some of its parking lots double as cruising spaces for men who have sex with men, and as a space for heterosexual partners (who presumably already cruised elsewhere, as they aren’t seen engaging in the prelude to the sexual act itself) to have sex in their cars, even in broad daylight. Yet, ironically, when it happens during the daytime, no one seems to care, or even notice. It seems to me, a child who grew up in this park and a teenager who grew into adulthood by frequenting its sexual double, that a city park qua city park has never existed. The park’s shadow existence as a haven for open-air cruising has always accompanied its other, more public functionality. These two functions never quite speak to each other and are perhaps not unlike the Internet’s own unspoken set of parallel worlds, as the same piece of equipment harbors the most productive of all endeavors (work) and the most pornographic (sexual play).

On any given day, depending upon the hour, parking lots chosen for cruising accommodate between half a dozen to thirty cars. It’s mostly empty during the traditionally long Brazilian lunchtime, except for construction workers who live too far away and have to take their lunch break at the park. Cruisers drive around the lanes and trees, slowly passing by each vehicle so that the driver can do his best to peek through others’ windows. Some choose a spot, perhaps to save gas, and wait for vehicles to dance around them. Other times, several cars will cluster together as if to form a barricade—obstructing group sex from view, though not completely. There is a sense that people are safe only if they are either inside their vehicles or engaging in sex outside them. Even the most elaborately concocted gangbang will immediately stop, the participants fleeing to their cars as if disgusted by the stranger’s disrespect to their makeshift privacy, when an outsider leaves his own car and approaches the already-formed enclave. Sometimes you will see a worker and a company driver killing time, or a delivery person taking a nap in the car, who at least seems oblivious to the activities surrounding them. These parallel worlds seem to benefit the cruising subjects in case they get caught in the park, as their presence there doesn’t necessarily mean they were appropriating the park’s original purpose, non-sexual play, into sexual play.

Parque da Cidade

Fig. 2. Parque da Cidade. Photo by author.

Not all men have the luxury to protect themselves with their automobiles. Some show up at the parking lot on foot. These carless cruisers tend to have a seat on the grass and simply wait, sometimes shirtless. Some take their penis out of their pants and start shaking it to woo the motorists. The motorists, too, will often masturbate inside their vehicles while looking at the ballet of automobiles going round and round, and at the occasional pedestrian. One might leave his car door slightly open and promptly open it wide once a driver who interests him gets close. The class division is visible, not only based on the car one is driving, but also because those who are on foot tend to come from the poorer satellite cities, and are darker and younger, often minors. Some of them are known to be hustlers, others are thieves, and some are random passersby who were caught in the action by surprise and decided to stick around. And while a car may work as a protective shield, cocooning its driver in a sense of anonymity and providing the means for a quick escape—if a supposed thief, an unwanted suitor, or a police car approaches—it can also out the driver, as a particular make and model can offer a potential acquaintance a hint as to that driver’s identity. (And God only knows how I’ve freaked out every time I saw a silver Corolla, that looks just like my mother’s, drive by.)

This all happens just a few feet away from the park’s bike and jogging lanes, where the white middle class can be seen running, talking on their cell phones or pushing strollers. These fine citizens would presumably never spend more than the absolute minimum amount of time in parking lots, which are notorious for what are called seqüestros-relâmpagos, or “lightning-kidnappings,” in which criminals approach drivers as they head out or back in their car. The security kiosk at the entrance of one of these lots, its glass completely shattered by bullets, is a reminder of the terror hovering over both social worlds sited at the park. The park’s security vehicles and mounted police seldom patrol the area, and seem to pay little to no attention to the cruising, which takes places largely between two different parking lots, one just a few hundred feet from the other. Once the sexual possibilities of one lot have been extinguished (for now), cruisers moves on to the next one, sometimes to find even fewer promises (and the same cars over and over again), which leads them back to the first lot. And so on, and so forth.

Parque montage

Fig. 3. Parque da Cidade. Photo by author.

The general setup and dynamic of this scene—its principles and its movement, the way that it is coded—is quite similar to cruising spaces anywhere else in the world, which is precisely why I wish to interpellate it. The economy of look and touch, or look as touch, in Parque da Cidade cruising is an economy we may assume has been erased by the ubiquitous pragmatism of the digital. But even in its presumed anachronism or nostalgia, it is very much alive, and can serve as a blueprint for understanding new modes of cruising that have quickly embedded themselves in the the contemporary subject’s everyday—namely, the digital. How might “analog” cruising in a city park, which has gone on for decades, help us understand cruising facilitated by technologies other than automobiles and the areas reserved for their parking? How does a decidedly non-digital mode of cruising such as the Brasília city park’s explain what the digital does to desire, and what desire does to the digital? Is there something timeless, or even universal, about cruising?

A few of the elements clearly at work in this scene of old-school pleasure-seeking prop up digital modes of seeking (or demanding) precisely the same thing.2 We can recognize certain elements that seem to code cruising as a fantasy of a finding (of the object of desire), whether the performing of such code takes place at a parking lot in South America or a mobile app in Los Angeles by precisely juxtaposing digital and analog cruising. These include the circularity of the action as a strategy of deferral, the technological device as a prosthesis mediating the exchange and/of risk(s), and a general lack of investment in the notion of the category. The men cruising in the parking lot are not necessarily, in a Brazilian context, assumed to be or made “gay” because of it; they are just passing through.

These elements are, of course, not evenly distributed between the players. That is, if we concede that there are multiple players here, which we will and we won’t. Considering this is a scene of fantasy, in which a fantasy is performed as/in/into a scene (repeatedly), we may conceive an analysis that presupposes a singular, or rather, a particular Subject as a mode of entry to a manageable scene of analysis. Lucien Israël reminds us that due to the dreamlike quality of the fantasy, all partners in it are played by the same subject. There is no room for the Other in fantasy; it’s all about the “I.” Cruising here becomes a kind of casting in its various meanings: the displaying of the “I” like a casting out of a bait to attract suitors-cum-objects, the casting of the “I” as if in a mold by the repetitiveness of the scene of fantasy, and casting as a screening of performers to play the fantasy out for the “I,” who assigns them roles, or functions.

“Fantasy,” Israël writes, “is a theater of puppets that, from time to time, exhibits itself to an audience more or less restricted, but […] it is almost always played by the same little dolls.”3 In a way, the cruising subjects engaged in this highly repetitive cruising ballet are engaged in a form of interactive drive-thru with the ethos of a first-person shooter game, where images of potential objects of desire flash by the windshield and the windows—screens themselves, not unlike digital ones. The driver can invite them in as flesh, or shoo them away by remaining static—by choosing to roll up or roll down the window, or move about in space. In the end, the potential interactions with strangers aren’t sought as encounters with them, but as quick auditions for highly specifically coded fantasies that are to remain impenetrable, unscathed, and untainted by whatever strangeness the stranger might bring in. Like the first-person shooter game, the code that makes the game possible—its rules and its reason for being—is what seduces the player and keeps the play going: whatever otherness that appears in the frame is to be shot, that is, overcome. If it’s not, the game is over.

Consider how a certain circularity of the search—in the park, the cars end up where they first began, in digital cruising subjects are increasingly stuck on a browsing that seems to avoid fleshly meetings at all costs—is integral to “looking (for)” whether one is driving (in circles) over hot Brazilian tar and gravel or posting Casual Encounter Ads on Craigslist. Something about this circuitousness transcends not just nation and medium, but also specificity of goal when we think of ritualistic repetition as the general structure of neurosis. Néstor Braunstein notes that “[t]he drive does not aim at a visible, sensitive goal, but at the effect produced in its return, after having missed and gone around the target.”4 The neurotic must repeat—once, twice, three times, each time as if it were the first. Considering the Freudian truism that the neurotic Subject is the “normal” Subject tout court—out of all the possible psychic structures (neurosis, psychosis, perversion), we are all, at the very least, neurotic—we can see not only the inevitable queerness of the psychoanalytic mode of interpretation (the normal is queer, queerness as normality’s pre-condition), but also recognize the analysis of a much broader queerness in studying specific kinds of queerness. As the Parque example shows, and the erotic engagements enabled by digital cruising platforms like Craigslist maintains, the production of the scene of fantasy makes the notion of the identity category unsustainable.5 It would be a mistake then, and a concession to an essentialist and heterocentric political project (sometimes still categorized as queer), to conserve the labels that only a defensively anti-unconscious understanding of sex could hold when we speak of desire in all of its oceanic instability, while taking advantage of the symptoms that the digital makes vivid.

Although there may be no discourse possible without a “name” there somewhere, the “names” of desire should be understood to have a mobility without taxonomical imperatives that etch the human subject into place, a mobility of the drive(r)s at the Parque, but also of Craigslist users who are asked, at each ad they post, who they identify as at that moment (Male, Female, Trans, other) and who qualifies as their object of desire. In this sense, we would do well to un-think of these cruisers (behind the wheel and before the digital screen) as gay, and to focus, instead, in the particularities of their cruising. Tomás Almaguer argues that homosexuality in Latin America derives from gender non-conformity, not from object choice. It is passivity that makes a male be tagged as homosexual, whereas a masculine man whose sexual role is “active” will always be heterosexual, no matter who he is being “active” with. While this scheme still depends on sexual identity labels, it at least divorces them from the sole, and presumed, materiality of the body(’s genitalia). In some ways it relaxes the investment in the supposed immutable tangibility of “sex” in favor of the associative particularities of performativity. Here action, in its instability and movement (closer to the particularities of desire itself) dictates what one is in a temporary way, because action always finishes.6

Lucien Israël speaks of the “name” precisely as a space-holder for “there where there is actually nothing.” The “there where there is nothing” is usually thought of, in psychoanalytic literature, as the vagina(l), or in the fantasy of castration which man projects onto woman, but we can also see the anus/anal (and, for our purposes, the circle/circularity of cruising) occupying a similar place. For Israël, the notion of the category, which the queer(ing) usages of the Parque and the digital may ease or make flexible, is linked to his notion of the pathological. The category is pathological precisely because it freezes not only the subject into a set of presumed and unchangeable qualities but also the relationship between a subject and an object (of desire) as an immutable inevitability. The category robs the subject of his/her cruising abilities, propensities, and necessities. It presumes culture or biology to have already cruised for him/her. The result of such pre-fabricated cruising that antecedes the subject appears, precisely, in the category as a verdict and a destiny. For Israël, the pathological is in the exclusivity of the object as source of pleasure. The Parque suspends some categories, like homo/hetero binaries, while reinforcing others, like class. The digital renders visible, and interactive, the modularity between subject and object, and even the inconstancy of subjectivity itself, in platforms such as Craigslist. But it also reiterates the fiction of a subjectivity congealed into place in platforms such as Adam4Adam, whose very name embodies a frozen kind of sameness, and the GPS-based application Grindr, which blocks profile images that don’t adhere to normative notions of what a gay man looks like.7

The Chips Are Down

Like the cruising drivers and pedestrians of Brasília who can take different streets to arrive at other destinations and yet keep taking the same ones so that the destination never arrives (cruising and arriving are, after all, antithetical), the digital subject can re-configure not his sexuality, whose code has already been structured, but his positionality vis-à-vis sex practice itself, each time he touches the gadget. While we could say that the cruising subject’s movement respects a dynamic in which “the chips are down” (Les jeux sont faits8)—that is, a pattern has been faithfully traced and followed considering the obsessive way he goes back to the same place, and through the same route, the chips are never quite down when his repetition inevitably entails the meeting of strangers. This constant exposure to strangers, or strangeness, creates a sense of confusion (a non-coincidence) between presumed truths about presumed sexual identities and the sexual practices and objects one might associate with them. This dynamic doesn’t exemplify “a distinctive ethic of openness to alterity” that is intrinsic to cruising, as Tim Dean suggests. The openness to alterity is not a cruising subject’s ethical stance, but simply an effect of cruising, or rather, the price the cruising subject has to pay in order to cruise.9

I argue that the digital enables a hopeful confusion and a queer(ing) porousness of identity categories and the presumed objects of desire linked to them. Craigslist’s and Backpage’s interface, for instance, recognizes only the permutations made possible by M (male), F (female), and the multivalent T (trans–), for everything else, but the users themselves can circumvent the constrictions posed by the words, or the letters, by reconfiguring them manually (for example, MF4T, or T4F), and by squeezing certain expectation of conduct out of M(male) if M, for instance, is looking for T (M4T), or a mixed bag of objects (M4FTM). This ludic grouping of letters (a kind of symptomatic re-knotting, if we think of the letter that stands for an identity, or an object, itself as a knot where the movement of desire gets stuck) can lead to a transcendence of the word, or some of its trappings.

For Freud. the resistances and symptoms grow as we get close to the neurotic knot since the subject wants to protect the guarantee of permanence of jouissance, derived from the fantasy and lived in/through the symptom.10 Central to the concept of jouissance is the idea of subjective division and contradiction: while something may feel pleasurable for one psychic agency (for instance, the unconscious), it may cause pain for another (the ego). Jouissance is that which, perhaps, the subject sees as a pattern of behavior that brings her anxiety and pain, in the conscious, but that she keeps going back to, because it is unconsciously quite pleasurable. Curiously, Tim Dean describes the relationship between pleasure and jouissance as a prophylactic one, in the sense that it forms a barrier or a limit to keep the subject from being overwhelmed. It may just be that while analog cruising keeps us bounded, prophylactically, by our automobiles and the certainty of where our bodies begin and end, digital cruising’s exposing the porosity of the category and/of identity may indeed overwhelm the subject. This overwhelming tendency might help explain why certain risky sexual practices can become so banal (such as barebacking, that is, casual sex without prophylactic protection) and this too-much of digital cruising can lead to stalemate: Cruising never stops, actual meeting never begins—one is stuck in the masturbatory-ness of fantasy in which everyone is “I.”11

Note that there are several important differences in the cruising of that particular park in South America and digital cruising, despite my interest in what both preserve, not the least of which is the digital’s dependence on “the word” itself for cruising. Digital cruising is decidedly prolix in its pleasure-seeking, whereas cruising at Parque da Cidade involves much more looking and doing: literally driving, and driving around. Digital cruising relies on speech first and foremost, despite the images of headless torsos that are cast as bait in a first moment, whereas at the park speech is kept to a minimum, just enough so that the roles of active/passive are made clearer. Ativo ou passivo? (“Top or bottom?”) is often heard in conversation at the park—a conversation that can end abruptly when a driver who did not like the answer to the aforementioned question takes off in his car. The fleshly image, and the way its physical presence occupies and moves through space, is still not enough to guarantee itself as a proper object of desire. The word must be uttered to render the body on the other side desirable, or at least, legible: Ativo.


Fig. 4. Categories on Craigslist. Image by author.

Cruising As A Way of (Not) Dying: Risk as Friendly Fire

The idea of the death drive has often been interpellated in queer scholarship in its most literal sense. For instance, as an attempt to understand what appears to be a cruising subject’s self-destructive (anti-)social and (risky) sexual practices. An analysis of digital cruising can help us see how the death drive is indeed an important concept for thinking out sex but it must be understood not simply as a drive toward death, but as a “resting drive,” that is, a drive toward constancy. Cruising is, of course, a patterned performance of constancy. The various risky elements and practices attached to it may, at first glance, seem to be clear examples of the self-annihilation inherent to the death drive, but the digital makes us see how, in fact, the risk of/in cruising can aim much more toward a death-like stability than death itself.

Barebacking emblematizes this discussion. For Tim Dean, the practice, which he sees as an exclusively gay subculture, “often gives physical form to what should be understood as an ethical disposition of vulnerability to the other.” I see risk in cruising, as in barebacking, not as a pleasure that the subject seeks, but as friendly fire, namely, risk as the inevitable cost of making contact beyond the constraints of fictively stable categories and their presumed objects.12

I read barebacking as a practice whose descriptive limits cannot be found; it is here deployed as a malleable metaphorical figure. I think it’s more useful to use barebacking for its symbolic possibilities because it can be stretched out further as such, while de facto barebacking, as practice, if looked at from a non-heterocentric place, is all there is when desire (as that which codes sexual practice, including cruising) is involved. Barebacking, or sex without prophylactic mediation, is the contingency par excellence of human existence, in its coming to being and reproduction: it is the act on which heterosexuality as a procreative endeavor is predicated. Barebacking as a performance is the most vanilla act in the world. It is certified and demanded by religion, glorified by major institutions, and only becomes problematic when its consequences (from curable “minor” STDs to manageable “major” ones) leave absolutely no room for the perpetuation of the species—even if all the epidemiological and putative psychological risks of the practice are just the same no matter what category of identity, orientation, or sex the players may have.

Barebacking as a symbolic category doesn’t share a direct link to AIDS, or HIV, suicide, murder, or even pleasure per se. It is about one’s relationship to death (managing death, not welcoming it): its deferral, its arrival, its administration. In being so, it is about the human condition and is queer to the extent that that is precisely the condition of desire itself, a condition constitutive to the human subject, no matter the degree to which their queerness has been made manifest, acknowledged, or categorized. The relationship between the child and barebacking here becomes inextricable.

Desire itself is queer in the sense that its movement is too oceanic, chaotic, and unpredictable for it to ever fit or obey a particular code. While cruising at the park may offer us an allegorical event for thinking about the permeability of the category and the mobility of desire, it is in digital cruising that we see the overwhelming excess of desire, due to the way virtuality lends itself to fantasy (unconstrained by materiality).13

Although it’s true that symbolic barebacking brings about a confrontation with death that belongs to the subject tout court, regardless of how explicitly their queerness has been manifested, its effects are felt rather differently depending on the subject’s relationship to their own queerness. While “becoming pregnant” may constitute an inevitability-in-deferral for those aligned toward heterosexuality (a consolation prize for one’s own mortality), gay male-identified subjects have their own sense of deferred inevitability as well. Although the first may manage their anxiety toward death through the promise of vicarious longevity (through the child), the latter is left to nurture a relationship to HIV more along the lines of José Esteban Muñoz’s “no-longer-conscious” and “not-yet-there”: depending on one’s knowledge, one is either “not-yet-positive” or “no-longer-negative.”14

The digital’s ability to enhance symptoms inevitably entails, then, an also enhanced necessity to manage the subject’s relationship to a death that is always coming, and that will never quite come if we keep it that way. Unlike death itself, dreaded death as an interruption of the movement of life, of life’s cruising, death qua death cannot be consciously experienced—it is precisely the terminus of the possibility of the human experience. The subject constantly waits for a death that never arrives, and which is always premature when it does.15 The cruising subject’s masturbatory interpellation of death as not-yet-here through the endless deferral of the buzzkilling orgasm (digital cruising seems to involve more talk about sex and barebacking, than sex and barebacking itself, in practice) makes it seem as though one could not only tease death, or engage in a deathly flirtation, but that one could control it. Sylvia Payne sees the need to be pregnant in terms of the need to “have control over a feared object. . .”16 Is barebacking, then, propelled by a sadist jouissance that turns death into a body (or a series of interchangeable ones) that one treats like a signifier so one can make it say what one wants? Perversion, for Israël, is an attempt to access the beyond through the body in an endless equation that repeats itself as if immune to time: like the cruising motorists of Brasília who “get lost” on their way home in the exact same ways, in the name of the exact same ever-coming objects. In this sense, barebacking isn’t suicide, or murder, of any particular body, but the attempt to circumvent Death in its unexpected prematurity by turning It into an always so premature It can only ever arrive belatedly: If you court It, if you call It, if you invite It over, it will never catch you by surprise (Death’s most inherent quality).

If the cruising subject’s perverse strategy is to interpellate Death as if to keep It constantly close but at arm’s length so he can monitor It and keep It outside, if ever It enters the body as to obliterate it, it’s as if the subject neuters the very sting that makes Death so dreadful, Its unpredictability. The fact that neither can we see It, nor can we see It coming. . If this cruising subject invites Death, if not completely in, then into his vicinity—, he may access the jouissance of normativity, considering barebacking is its most basic sine qua non (what would be left of heterosexuality, or the subject more broadly, if everyone wore a condom every time?). He courts Death, he can even bring It close to his body to the point where It could inhabit it as a virus. If Death is thus inside, it can’t come knocking in the middle of the night, unexpectedly.

To See Death Coming

Barebacking haunts cruising as the collapsing of HIV and AIDS become increasingly delayed through technology, and what used to be a death sentence becomes a sentence of death. Death becomes words in the script of fantasy—that is, death becomes a potential masturbation device. Death is summoned, befriended, embodied. It is swallowed. Death becomes the intimate object of a game of revelation and withholding played out by both language—to announce, to deny, to omit, to refuse (knowledge) of one’s HIV status—and body: the virus that can define the subject can actually be undetectable in the subject: I do but I don’t—this is jouissance’s very ethos.

We may think of Ingmar Bergman’s iconic chess scene in The Seventh Seal, in which the knight attempts to outsmart Death’s arrival and curtail Its immediacy by seducing It inside the temporality of the board game. We may also think of Beatriz Preciado’s analysis of the psychotropic origins of Freud’s methodologies in the late nineteenth century, as well as Walter Benjamin’s experimentating with drugs, or “chemical impregnations.” These latter examples only literalize a dynamic of self-impregnation of the symbolic toxicity—Preciado speaks of turning the self into the researcher’s most crucial guinea pig—which may take us to that which comes after queer: “A philosophy that doesn’t utilize its body as an active platform of transformation is bound to nothingness. Ideas do not suffice. Art does not suffice. Style does not suffice. Good intentions do not suffice.”17

Considerations of queerness as evidenced in modes of cruising can often take an alienating (non)shape when cruising is probed as a mostly digital endeavor with traces that are intangible until the symptoms of cruising themselves are made evident in the body, as the result of disease. Meanwhile those too (symptom and disease) are deferred, as if nothing outside anyone’s scripts were ever happening. The queerness that makes desire can present itself quite clearly in action when we look at the zigzagging of the vehicles at Brasília’s city park, like an archeological find that keeps haunting a more sophisticated system of looking based on pixels but propelled by the same will to repeat—and to (never) find. Except that, digitally, the subject is less shielded: in virtuality, anything is possible.

We can see the soothing rhythm of the death drive performed in the flesh—much like Samuel R. Delany’s description of the “numberless silent sexual acts” happening between parked trucks on Christopher Street, in the East Village, as a frenetic ballet of uninterruption(s).18 There too fleshly cruising animates what we can see today as the digital’s ability to mimic the exchange of images and words, but mostly words, the toggling between interfaces and gadgets, promising that idealities can become actualities—later.

The Internet, then, comes to literalize our own pre-digital inherent virtuality (our objects of desire as semblances, not substances), and that of all-else which is never within our reach, but so often within our sight. Lacan characterizes the effect of realizing the gap between ideality and actuality as an aggressiveness akin to that of “a slave who responds to being frustrated in his labor with a death wish.” Such frustration, of course, wouldn’t have to be an exclusivity of “a slave” of the sort we might easily imagine as attached to a minority status (factual and imaginary), when we consider the subject more broadly as always already a slave of language. And of desire, which is subjected and appropriated, “even in its very normality,” as Lacan calls it, even in the best of all scenarios), by “the accidents of the subject’s history.” That means even the most well-guarded vehicle can still crash and burn. No psyche is coded beyond malfunction, beyond bugs.19

As far as the cruising subject is concerned, when it comes to his psychic space and his bodily practice there is actually no room for accidents in the park. It is a fake labyrinth, painstakingly mapped out. Its dwellers know its every nook and cranny. The park is an analogy, a blueprint, a home. The exoskeleton of a short-circuit that was designed to be a traffic shortcut. For Vincent Bourseul, cruising app Grindr’s structure is that of the short-circuit (of Desire) too, although its promises are akin to a short-cut (to jouissance), where no offer can live up to one’s demand—and vice-versa.20 This seems to be the perfect recipe to guarantee that the cruising subject utilizes the Other to masturbate itself (with one hand on the wheel or the keyboard) without ever having to touch Him—keeping his humanness to a minimum, or reducing it to a nothing. The Other remains trapped in/as His image, His letter and His words. But if the Other hacks the cruising subject’s familiar code, then something else other than masturbation might actually happen. Perhaps love.

  1. Since 2011, the park started a series of initiatives to make the park a “safer space” for “everyone” (i.e. “the entire family”). This has meant the closure of all but one of its several parking lots between midnight and 5 a.m. Suzana Almeida, “Lazer Democrático Para Toda a Família.” (accessed January 26, 2012).
  2. One of Lacan’s richest insights in “The Signification of the Phallus” is that any demand is a demand for love. Jacques Lacan, “The Signification of the Phallus,” Écrits (London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006).
  3. For Israël, sadism and masochism do not occupy the realm of the fantasy for in their case the Other actually has a role to play. Lucien Isräel, “Schadenfreude,” Pulsions de Mort: Séminaire 1976-1977 (Paris: Éditions Arcanes, 1998), p. 26. (All translations of Pulsions are mine.)
  4. Nestor Braunstein, “Desire and jouissance in the teachings of Lacan,” The Cambridge Companion to Lacan (London: Cambridge University Press, 2003), edited by Jean-Michel Rabaté, p. 108.
  5. Craigslist is emblematic of my optimistic reading of a newfound permeability of the category incited by the digital, while sites built on a clearly defined category of personhood based on strict definitions of sameness and difference (e.g., Adam4Adam, Manhunt, OkCupid) aren’t.
  6. Tomás Almaguer, “Chicano Men: A Cartography of Homosexual Identity and Behavior,” The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (London: Routledge, 1993).
  7. My attempts at posting a photo of myself in drag have been consistently met by Grindr’s insistence in taking it down for not adhering to its policies.
  8. In a dynamic such as this the subject codes, unconsciously, his or her conduct and choices in a calculated way that leaves no room for chance—guaranteeing the same result every time. Strangeness/otherness being, then, hijacked into a prop to, well, prop up, the repetition of a very familiar scene.
  9. It is important to note that Tim Dean does nuance his argument when he claims that “the ethics of cruising is an ethics of the stranger in modernity” that depends on “how one treats the other and, more specifically, how one treats his or her own otherness.” Tim Dean, Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking (Chicago and London. The University of Chicago Press, 2009), p. 176, 177.
  10. Israël, Pulsions, p. 94. Jouissance is a fundamental concept for Lacan, which is absent in Freud’s oeuvre, but stems from it, as most Lacanian concepts do.
  11. Dean, “Lacan and Queer Theory,” The Cambridge Companion to Lacan (London: Cambridge University Press, 2003), edited by Jean-Michel Rabaté, p. 249.
  12. Dean, Intimacy, p. 210.
  13. For more on the relationship between desire and this mode of queerness, see Joan Copjec’s arguments around perversion (whose notion in psychoanalysis is tellingly close to that of queerness) and desire. James Penny, “Concluding (Un)Queer Theoretical Postcript,” The World of Perversion: Psychoanalysis and The Impossible Absolute of Desire (SUNY Press, 2006).
  14. Helene Deutsch describes the need to be pregnant as a way for the impaired ego to attempt coping with anxiety, staving off failure, and resolving psychological conflict through substitute/prosthetic gratification. For Deutsch, pregnancy affords to women a “vacation” from ego weaknesses, a kind of anesthesia that echoes the appeasing that the addict finds in the encounter with the substance and, mostly, through repetition. Considering trauma comes from the unexpected, HIV for so-called “gay people” in the 21st Century is never traumatic, always expected. Israël stretches this thought to rape, which he admits to inhabiting the realm of the horrific, but not the traumatic. Israël, Pulsions, 175. José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: New York University, 2009).
  15. In psychoanalysis, the human subject’s birth, unlike the birth of other animals, is “premature” as well. See Jacques Derrida, Aporias (Stanford University Press, 1993), p. 67.
  16. Burton Lerner et al, “On The Need To Be Pregnant,” International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 48 (1967).
  17. “All philosophy is self-vivification necessarily, when it is not the vivification of others.” Beatriz Preciado, Testo Junkie: Sexe, Drogue et Biopolitique (Paris: Grasset, 2008), p. 307. (Translation mine.)
  18. Didier Lestrade, “De La Solitude des LGBT,” Miroir/Miroirs 1, 2013: 75.
  19. Jacques Lacan, “The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis,” Écrits, p. 208.
  20. Vincent Bourseul, “Grindr, Le Sexe Sans Sexualité?”, Miroir/Miroirs 1, 2013, 27.

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